Blowout loss to Patriots ends Miami Dolphins season, maybe Tony Sparano's tenure

Heading into the season finale on Sunday, most Dolphin fans (as surveyed last week) were either hoping or expecting that this would be the final game of the Tony Sparano era. However some (and I was kind of on the fence myself) weren't necessarily ready to say farewell to Sparano.

But a 31 point loss at the hands of the Patriots may just have been the final straw for Sparano and this regime. And that, of course, is where we will start this morning.

Lack of effort to doom Sparano?

Sunday's loss is the very first time I can recall seeing this team give up on the field under Tony Sparano. Right from the start, there seemed to be a lack of effort from his players - which could ultimately cost Sparano his job.

Many of these players spoke last week about how much they love playing for Sparano and how this season is not his fault but rather everyone's fault. But actions speak louder than words. What I saw on Sunday was a team that quit. It's that simple.

Owner Stephen Ross was out of the country for this game. But you know he's been briefed on what took place Sunday in Foxboro. There's no doubt he's received all of the details from a game that felt quite frankly like a funeral. It reminded me of that infamous 62-7 playoff loss that ended Jimmy Johnson's coaching career and Dan Marino's playing career.

I suppose that is somewhat fitting, though, considering the Dolphins remain tortured by their inability to find a suitable replacement for Marino - even eleven years after the fact. But we'll get to this topic in a minute.

For Sparano (as well as GM Jeff Ireland and the entire coaching staff), the next few days will seem like an eternity as we all await a decision from Stephen Ross. Reports were that Sparano would meet with Ross after the season and that the owner would give Tony a chance to make a case for how he intends to turn things around. But now after another glancing blow on Sunday, you have to wonder if Sparano will even get that opportunity - or if he even deserves it.

Whatever happens, keep in mind not to believe everything you read. There are going to be rumors and reports everywhere about the fate of Sparano. Every reporter, writer, blogger, and idiot with a message board will try to "break news" by citing "sources." Be sure to weed out the legitimate reports from the ridiculous rumors.

For example, there was already a report from a Dolphins message board that the Dolphins were yet to inform the media of a time for Tony Sparano's usual Monday press conference - leading us to believe this could be due to Sparano's time coming to an end. But the Sun-Sentinel's Mike Berardino already shot that down by telling us Sparano's press conference on Monday is scheduled for 11:30.

Like I said, be on the look out for idiots claiming to have "sources."

With that being said, the hot names being thrown around as potential replacements for Sparano if he is let go include Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, and Jim Harbaugh. With the Giants confirming that Tom Coughlin will be back as head coach and the Texans reportedly close to deciding to hang on to Gary Kubiak, the only team that might have a head coaching vacancy on "Cowher's wishlist" are indeed the Dolphins. Just something to keep in mind.

Harbaugh's name also seems to suddenly be picking up steam - at least on the internet. Harbaugh, currently the head coach at Stanford, has been rumored to be a candidate for numerous jobs - including the University of Michigan head coaching job as well as a number of NFL opening (49ers, Broncos and possibly Raiders). But Harbaugh is a Michigan Wolverine - something Stephen Ross loves - and he does have connections to GM Jeff Ireland.

Of course, I don't see how Ross could fire Sparano and keep Ireland when Jeff at least shares equal blame for the mess this team is in - if not more.

Yup - just the start to another offseason in Miami.

QUICK HITS

Because it's painful to talk about this game, let's do the rest of the recap "quick hit" style:

  • Chad Henne isn't the answer. Period. He attempted 16 passes on Sunday and at least four of them were badly inaccurate. Enough is enough with Henne. Don't get me wrong - he'll still be here in Miami next year, maybe even as the starter, but he is not the long-term solution. With the season over, the QB search is officially back on in Miami - as if it ever really ended.
  • When asked of he and Henne can coexist next season, Brandon Marshall simply responded, "Next question." That's not typically a good sign, people. This is a relationship that just never really connected. And now it's fractured. We saw Marshall talking and encouraging Tyler Thigpen on the sideline yesterday. We haven't seen Marshall interact with Henne like that in weeks. That should tell you all you need to know.
  • Please don't come here and tell me Tyler Thigpen is the answer. Did he look better than Henne on Sunday? Yes. But he looked like chicken sh*t against the Bears in his only start. And if your answer to this franchise's quarterback woes is really Tyler Thigpen, then your QB problem is actually a lot worse than originally thought.
  • The offensive line has played down right offensive the past few weeks - and perhaps had their worst game on Sunday. They were getting both of their quarterbacks killed. They got absolutely no push up front when Miami tried running the ball. And now it's time to again rebuild the interior line - something that was supposed to be done years ago by our head coach whose specialty was supposed to be the OL.
  • Chris Clemons had a rough game, huh? Consider him exposed. Clemons might be serviceable. But a true center fielder is needed to take this defense to the next level.
  • By going without a sack in the final three games of the year, Cameron Wake fell to third in the league in sacks - 1.5 short of league leader DeMarcus Ware. That's a shame - but still a great season by Wake.
  • What the hell has happened to Dan Carpenter? He was so good earlier this year. But he closed out the year on an 8 for 16 slump the final six games.
  • The Dolphins will select 15th in April's NFL Draft. Will a top QB still be on the board?
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